Indianapolis: Brickyard qualifying report

Welcome home: Hoosier native Stewart wins Brickyard pole. INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2002 -- Indiana native Tony Stewart won the pole Aug. 3 for the ninth Brickyard 400 with a lap of 49.191 seconds, 182.960 mph, making Indianapolis Motor ...

Welcome home: Hoosier native Stewart wins Brickyard pole.

INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2002 -- Indiana native Tony Stewart won the pole Aug. 3 for the ninth Brickyard 400 with a lap of 49.191 seconds, 182.960 mph, making Indianapolis Motor Speedway history in the process.

It was the fastest lap ever by a stock car at the historic 2.5-mile oval, shattering the previous mark of 181.072 set by Brett Bodine in 2000.

Stewart, who grew up in Rushville, Ind., also became the first driver to start on the pole for both the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400. He started on the pole for the 1996 Indianapolis 500 after teammate Scott Brayton, who had won the pole, was killed in a practice crash.

"When I come here, I probably put more pressure on myself than anywhere I go, and I knew that I was either going to put down a really good lap or a really bad lap," Stewart said. "The biggest thing is that I put so much pressure on myself, with what's going on around here and having so many family members and friends and everything here."

Bill Elliott qualified second at 49.421, 182.109 in the No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge. It was the seventh top-10 qualifying position in nine Brickyard 400 starts for Elliott.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was third at 49.552, 181.627 in the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet, with Indianapolis 500 veteran Robby Gordon fourth at 49.575, 181.543 in the No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet.

Indiana native Ryan Newman rounded out the top five at 49.645, 181.287 in the No. 12 ALLTEL Ford. Newman, from South Bend, Ind., was the top rookie qualifier.

The ninth annual Brickyard 400 starts at 2:30 p.m. (EDT) Sunday. It will be televised live on NBC.

1996-97 Indy Racing League champion Stewart earned his second Bud Pole of the season in the No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac. Stewart's best previous Brickyard 400 start was ninth last year.

Stewart was among the drivers who made their qualifying attempts early in the qualifying order, benefiting from cooler track temperatures. He was the 11th out of 50 drivers to make an attempt.

"We knew coming out this morning that the conditions were going to be different (from yesterday)," Stewart said. "We just didn't know if they were going to be better for our car or worse. Sometimes it can change the handling in a way you don't want it to change, but our balance stayed the same. We just had a little better grip today."

Newman was the only driver in the top five who didn't qualify in the top half of the order. He was the second-to-last driver to make an attempt.

"It got a little tight in Turn 3 but good enough for a top-five start," Newman said. "This one's better than last year, and hopefully we can race a little better."

Stewart also is looking for an improved race performance over last year. He finished 17th after brushing the wall on Lap 137 while running in the top 10.

"I get pretty mad when I make mistakes on my own," Stewart said. "When it's something that's out of your control, it's one thing, but when you force it upon yourself -- I did it from trying too hard."

NASCAR Winston Cup points leader Sterling Marlin qualified eighth at 49.806, 180.701 in the No. 40 Coors Light Dodge. His closest pursuer in the points, Mark Martin, qualified ninth at 49.815, 180.668 in the No. 6 Pfizer/Viagra Ford.

The next two drivers in the standings, rookie Jimmie Johnson and defending Brickyard 400 winner Jeff Gordon, didn't fare as well.

Johnson was forced to use a provisional and will start 37th in the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet after posting a time of 50.868, 176.929, the 43rd fastest.

Four-time Winston Cup champion Gordon will start 21st after a lap of 50.141, 179.494 in the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet. Gordon, a former resident of Pittsboro, Ind., encountered mechanical problems at the end of his first lap and pulled off the track before starting his last lap.

"Whatever broke, it couldn't have happened in a better place, I guess, but I didn't want anything to break at all," Gordon said. "It's going to be interesting to see what happens to us. We haven't been super fast with our qualifying setup, so we've got some work to do anyway, but I think we've got a good race car."

Gordon became the first three-time winner of the event last year after starting 27th.

"You can win it from anywhere," Gordon said. "It just depends on how the cautions fall and the pit strategy you use. It's possible, and we've got a good race car and a great race team. That being said, we can certainly win this race, but we're going to have our work cut out."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Brett Bodine , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Sterling Marlin , Robby Gordon , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Mark Martin